End of the 2013 media year, beginning of 2014…

I’ve been asked to participate in a couple of “what happened in the media world in 2013” and “what will happen in the media world in 2014”-type exercises in recent weeks.

Here is the piece I wrote for the Nieman Lab at Harvard. As always, Josh Benton and the rest of the crew have done a terrific job and gotten tons of smart people to offer their thoughts. Great stuff, much to read and ponder in the whole series of 2014 predictions.

My own piece focus on three things to watch for 2014, all under the motto “follow the money”. The three things are (1) the coming disruption of television news, (2) the changing interactions between social media and content producers, and (3) the ongoing evolution of pay models for digital news.

Before writing my 2014 piece, I re-read my 2013 predictions, also written for  the Nieman Labs. I mischievously called that piece “a year of more of the same” and argued the underlying trends throughout 2013 would be a continuation of what we have seen for years now, a structural transformation that is eroding legacy business models for news production at a much faster pace than new business models are being developed. (I was tempted to essentially submit the same piece again with the title “It’s the economy, stupid”, but that would be too cheeky.)

I also said we were likely to see at least one major surprise–the Edward Snowden revelations and everything they led to would be my retrospective candidate for that “one major surprise”-award.

I highlight the Snowden revelations in my contribution to Nic Newman‘s annual trends report (here is the 2103 one–hold up well in retrospect, I think, especially on mobile traffic, Twitter, and new social media) where he surveys a range of people to supplement his own many insights into developments in media and journalism.

Nic asked me three questions for his forthcoming 2014 report–

1.     What surprised you most in 2013?
2.     What will surprise people in 2014?
3.     Companies, start ups or technologies to watch

Below is my reply–

What surprised me most in 2013? The extent of NSA surveillance revealed by Snowden and the various media organizations he worked with and who followed up on it. Like everyone else I thought of assumed some of this stuff was going on but frankly I find the extent of it both shocking and somewhat surprising.

What will surprise people in 2014? It will surprise some that there are some people out there who will pay for (digital) news content provided it is (a) relevant, (b) distinct, (c) timely, and (d) convenient. It will surprise some companies trying to charge for news content that their offerings do not qualify under those considerations. It will surprise some journalists that their work does not qualify under those considerations.

Companies to watch? I’m going to be old-school and say Axel Springer. Their pay experiments seem to have gotten off to a good start, they have a strong basis with their legacy operations, they have focused the news and media content parts of the company more clearly through their sales to Funken media group, and the acquisition (provided it is green-lighted by competition authorities) of the TV news channel N24 is really interesting and has the potential to strengthen Welt specifically but also other parts of the company by increasing their video capabilities (for digital as well as for traditional scheduled TV, obviously).

(All of the above is very Western-centric, and very business-oriented. I should hasten to add I continue to try to follow developments in the industry in Brazil and India, and that I, on the content side, look forward (if that is the right word) to following the journalistic coverage of the European Parliamentary elections in 2014, the 2014 U.S. Congressional mid-term elections, and the Indian 2014 general election.)


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